“Jet Black and the Ninja Wind” is the newest entry to the young adult fiction boom. Likely to garner comparison against genre heavyweights such as “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games,” this series offers a refreshing twist to the formula by incorporating Japanese cultural and historical elements.
The story centers on Rika Kuroi (aka Jet Black), a teenage Japanese girl living on a Navajo reservation in the United States. After her mother’s tragic death, Jet learns she is the last kunoichi (female ninja), and goes to Japan to join a family she never knew existed in order to fulfill her destiny as the savior of her people.
In contrast to most other action-driven teen fiction, “Jet Black” is well researched and focuses on historical realism. The ninja heroes in this story are not supernatural or fantastical, but rather highly skilled assassins whose astounding abilities are grounded with plausible explanation. Apart from the ninja plot, there is considerable focus given on the culture and history of Japan and it’s people. Readers will also get a brief crash-course in the Japanese language as the book features many Japanese terms with a helpful glossary placed in the back.
Despite a somewhat tacked-on romance occurring in the latter half, Jet’s actions throughout are believable, and seldom fall into female stereotype or typical protagonist cliché. Literature majors might want to take a pass, but for young fans of the genre or those with an interest in Japan, this is a refreshing choice amidst a sea of generic heroines falling in love with supernatural creatures.